Clothing comes in all different materials these days. So how do we know what’s best for sun protection when we’re out on the trails?
We agree, having any additional layers to protect from the sun is better than nothing. But to be fair, some clothing is better than others. We will dive a little deeper into what makes an ideal piece of clothing for being outdoors, both on and off the trail.
There are a handful of qualities that make clothing a good candidate for outdoor wear: sun protection, comfort, durability, breathability, and moisture control.
For sun protection, you generally want more tightly woven fabrics. Ideally, you would be looking for fabrics that are not sheer or see through, at the minimum. Darker colors also do a better job of absorbing UV rays so that your skin is a bit more protected. Tightly woven cotton, tightly woven wool, and polyester are good choices.
For comfort, you want something soft to the touch so that the clothing is not abrasive to your skin. Cotton, wool, and polyester are good choices.
Being outdoors, durability is a big factor. After all, what good is a shirt if there is a huge hole ripped in it? For clothing, you have to balance durability with reasonable comfort - canvas is durable, but you’re likely not going to want to be wearing canvas t shirts all day. Synthetic materials like polyester is a good choice.
Breathability is important on those hot days, or when you’re moving around a lot and generating body heat. Cotton and linen are good, breathable options.
Moisture control is surprisingly important and something you generally won’t consider until your clothes are drenched in sweat. There is a big difference between moisture absorption and moisture wicking. Materials such as cotton do a good job of absorbing moisture. Moisture absorption is when the material takes in, and holds, the moisture. This absorption may not be ideal if you want to expel the moisture. Moisture wicking is a different concept, where moisture is pulled through the fabric to its outside surface, in order to more easily be evaporated into the atmosphere. Materials such as polyester and nylon are good moisture wicking options.
So what makes up the ideal clothing?
Consider a blend of different materials such as cotton and polyester blends, offering you a combination of qualities that help with sun protection, comfort, durability, breathability, and moisture control.